Even in the absence of a snow-covered landscape, the holiday spirit still filled the air at the Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony Dec. 6 in front of garrison headquarters.
As the audience counted down – from 10, nine, eight, seven … to one – Fort Riley’s Family of the Year, the Mathews Family, with the help of Brig. Gen. Donald MacWillie, senior commander, Fort Riley, flipped the switch on the holiday tree, illuminating Ware Parade Field.
The Mathews Family includes Lt. Col. Michael Mathews, chief of operations, 1st Infantry Division; his wife, Carrie; and the couple’s three sons, Garrett, 13, T.J., 10, and Grady, 6. Michael is currently deployed with the 1st Inf. Div. in Afghanistan.
The Mathews have lived at Fort Riley for three years. Carrie is a member of the Historical and Archeological Society of Fort Riley; president of the Parent Teacher Association at Fort Riley Elementary School; and president of the Military Council of Catholic Women. Michael is the former 97th Military Police Battalion commander. The Family was nominated to light the tree by Stacie Dumas, Fort Riley Family readiness program coordinator, who said she nominated the Family because “they do so much for the community.”
“I just feel honored,” Carrie said about being selected to light the tree. “It feels good to be loved.”
MacWillie spoke to the audience during the event, telling them he brings greetings from Maj. Gen. William Mayville, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general; 1st Inf. Div. Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Sasser; and from Fort Riley men and women serving around the world.
“They send you their love, and they demand that we have a fantastic holiday season,” he said.
MacWillie also told the audience he brings greetings from the leadership at Fort Riley.
“They are so very, very proud of what you’ve accomplished, and the Families make it special because tonight starts the season, the season where Family and friends get together – (for) smiles, food, presents,” he said. “So Merry Christmas to all of you, and may the new year bring nothing but prosperity and our loved ones back home.”
Keeping with the holiday spirit, children from School Age Services sang “Jingle Bells,” followed by a surprise visit from Santa Claus to the tune of the 1st Inf. Div. Band playing, “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and the excited screams of children in the audience.
Santa shook hands and exchanged jokes with audience members before making his way to the podium, where he was interviewed by Fort Riley officials about his toy production operation.
Santa told the audience he has thousands of little elves who help him make toys every day, and when asked how he makes deliveries all over the world, Santa gave a light-hearted response.
“Well, it’s not UPS,” he said. “It’s a very magical time … We use all the magic.”
But, when Santa was asked about his reindeers, he became somewhat confused.
“Let’s see here … Sleepy, Dopey. No, no, that’s not it,” he said. “I have Donner, Blixtzen, Prancer, Dasher, Comet, Cupid and Rudolph.”
Additionally, Santa told the crowd he would still be visiting the men and women serving all over the world, and that none of them were on the naughty list. He also reminded children he would be delivering presents on Christmas Eve, so they should go to bed early.
Following the benediction, children followed Santa Claus into the garrison headquarters building, where they gave him their wish list for Christmas.
By Dena O’Dell
1st Inf. Div. Post
Dena O’Dell | POST
Santa Claus shakes hands with audience members after arriving at the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 6 at Ware Parade Field in front of garrison headquarters on Main Post.
Dena O’Dell | POST
Children from CYSS sing “Jingle Bells” prior to Santa Claus’ arrival at the Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony Dec. 6 at Ware Parade Field in front of the garrison headquarters building.
Dena O’Dell | POST
Tamyra Arkansas, 8, left, and Tanaja Edwards, 10, right, wait for the Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony to begin Dec. 6.